With so many eCommerce platforms and solutions available for online store owners and website developers, what is the best eCommerce platform to use? Firstly, I suppose we need to define what we mean by best. Everyone’s requirements will be completely different so we will assume that you are after an eCommerce website that is cost effective, SEO friendly, easy to use, customisable and secure.
We have compiled the following list of popular eCommerce platforms:
Shopify is one of the leading and most popular online store builders. It is a web application that allows you to create your online store using pre-defined templates. You are able to customise these templates and there are various plans available. The main drawback is that certain features are only available on higher plans, so if for example you want to be able to email users who have abandoned their cart, this is only available on the pro plan and above. The other important thing to note is that you will never own your store. So whilst a monthly plan may be attractive to you as there are no upfront fees, as soon as you stop paying your monthly fee, your eCommerce website will not be available online. Using an online platform like Shopify will always mean that you will have to continue to use their services and unless you create a new eCommerce solution, you will be stuck on their platform.
Big Cartel is an online store builder like shopify. Big Cartel charges a monthly fee and this determines how many products you are allowed to sell online. You are able to hire your own web design agency to customise your eCommerce website, or if you are able to code you can do this yourself. All the standard features you would expect from an eCommerce solution are available. The main downfall, again the same as with Shopify is that you are using an online platform so you will have to continue to use their services unless you create a new eCommerce solution. You will also find that if your eCommerce solution requires any functionality that is a little more bespoke, you will struggle to get this implemented.
Big Commerce like the other two online eCommerce platforms we have listed has the same advantages and disadvantages. Big Commerce will provide you with around 7 free themes to use and there are around 60 paid themes available. For a while Big Commerce lagged behind its competitors by not providing responsive themes that will adapt to the user’s device, however they have since addressed this issue. It is worth noting that if they are slow to adopt new trends, your eCommerce store may suffer in the future.
OS Commerce is an open source platform, so it is free to use. Unless you are able to program and code you will need to commission a web design agency to build your website. OS Commerce is relatively easy to install however we have heard of a few professionals that do struggle to customise and develop bespoke applications for this eCommerce platform. The admin panel is a bit dated and once your eCommerce platform is launched, changing simple design elements can be tricky so you will need to have your professional web designer on speed dial. For these reasons we believe there are much better supported options available.
PrestaShop is a good eCommerce platform for startups. It works well with a medium to large number of products, however as an eCommerce platform it does lack some in-built functionalities. These can be made up through free and paid plugins though. PrestaShop has an intuitive administration panel and it is well supported within the community. Bug fixes are regularly released, however we have found that it can take some considerable “know how” implementing these. As an eCommerce platform PrestaShop does aspire to appeal as a large shop base however when it comes to scalability it cannot compete with Magento and its system architecture can hinder bespoke development.
Our preferred popular eCommerce platforms:
Woocommerce is a shopping cart plugin for WordPress. It is free to download and there are no monthly fees. Implementation is quick and easy. There are a variety of free and paid plugins available to install adding further functionality to this already feature rich eCommerce platform. Hiring a competent developer will allow you to extend your stores functionality further. Woocommerce is SEO friendly and is a great low cost option for a small but professional eCommerce website. The only negative we have found with Woocommerce is when using it on an eCommerce store that has a high number of products or when integration with a 3rd party application that manages your products (such as an XPOS system). As with every solution that is not an online service, it is advisable you enter into a support agreement so the platform can be updated, patched and checked regularly for vulnerabilities.
Magento is one of the most developed and popular eCommerce platforms available. It is open source so it is free to download and has no monthly fees. It also has a huge range of functionalities and is SEO friendly. It can be high on server resources compared to other eCommerce solutions, however it is perfect for coping with large numbers of products. If your eCommerce website needs to cope with high volumes of traffic, then Magento is probably the best solution for you. There are plenty of free and paid extensions to add extra functionality to your base installation and due to the system’s architecture, creating bespoke functionality allows for endless possibilities. The main drawback with Magento is in the installation and modification. Unlike other eCommerce platforms Magento will require an experienced programmer to setup and get you started. Once up and running and after an initial tutorial you should find managing your eCommerce solution straight forward. As with every solution that is not an online service, it is advisable you enter into a support agreement so the platform can be updated, patched and checked regularly for vulnerabilities.
If your eCommerce solution requires a high level of customisation and integration with in-house systems, if your budget allows you should consider a bespoke eCommerce solution. The only limitations you will then face are either budget constraints or your developer’s ability. Your bespoke eCommerce platform will take plenty of planning, you will require support with updates, further enhancements and bug fixes. However whilst it is more expensive to implement a bespoke solution over an existing open source platform or online solution, a bespoke eCommerce platform will meet your exact requirements and should deliver the exact results you are after.